Mayor Carty Finkbeiner on Friday ordered some 200 members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines from Grand Rapids, Michigan, out of Toledo just before the unit was supposed to start a weekend of urban warfare training downtown.
The mayor TMs spokesperson, Brian Schwartz said, The mayor asked them to leave because they frighten people. He did not want them practicing and drilling in a highly visible area."
Toledo police said they knew about the training and had approved the unit TMs use of the Madison Building and the Promenade Park area. The training was scheduled to start Friday afternoon and last until Sunday. Police said the unit TMs presence would have a minimal impact on the city. Police issued a press release earlier in the week saying the Marines would be wearing green camouflage uniforms, operate military vehicles, carry rifles, perform foot patrols, and fire blank ammunition during the exercise.
Schwartz said there was a breakdown in communication between police and the Finkbeiner administration that led to the mayor TMs action.
The Marines drilled here three times during the Ford administration and once under the Finkbeiner administration. After the last visit, the mayor told then police Chief Jack Smith, that he did not want the marines back. Smith failed to inform the current police administration of the mayor TMs feelings, Schwartz said.
NBC24 spoke to Jack Smith who recalled that after the Marines last visit, he and the mayor had a heated exchange about the training.
He told me he did not want them, as he put it, 'playing war in Toledo,'" Smith recalled. "I told him, as a former Marine, that if one young Marine TMs life is saved because of training he or she received in Toledo, Ohio, then it was worth the inconvenience.
Smith said if the mayor objected, then he should have been the one to convey those feelings to police. Smith took his run-in with the mayor as an objection to that last visit and not future training in Toledo. As a result, the Toledo police went ahead, granting approval to the 1-24th Marines to conduct the routine exercise. The police notified members of the Finkbeiner administration who were not aware that the mayor objected to units training in Toledo.
When the mayor found out, he sent a member of his staff to tell Marines they could not conduct urban operations in Toledo. The unit was notified about 3:30 p.m. after an advance team arrived in Toledo. Five buses carrying some 200 Marines traveled four hours from Grand Rapids, only to find out the training had been shot down.
The unit briefly stopped at a 1-24th Marine base in Perrysburg Township, then returned to Grand Rapids where training was expected to be held this weekend. A spokesperson for the Marines said they were disappointed by the mayor TMs decision especially after the city had been so helpful in the past.
Finkbeiner held a news conference Saturday night to address the growing controversy. Finkbeiner says bad planning and communication breakdowns led to his decision to bar a Marine Corps unit from training in downtown Toledo. Finkbeiner spent much of the twenty minute news conference explaining what he didn't know, and when he didn't know it.
I don't know when we were first asked, he says, were we asked Tuesday or Wednesday of this week?